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Posts from the ‘Life The Universe and Everything.’ Category

The Gift of Being Heard

I’ve spent many hours “listening to and being listened to.” I’ve communicated, at least on some superficial level, what I meant to say. I pause to listen, to tune in, but in my haste, I fail to hear the real sound that I am in need of hearing. I listen, but fail to hear.
You can learn “listening skills” which will, if you practice them, enable you to not “spring” too soon. You can learn to clarify what is being said and the person on the other end of the conversation may come away feeling as if they communicated successfully.
We listen inquisitively, we listen out of curiosity, we listen in hopes that if we do so it will somehow all be over and we can say that “I listened to you. What more do you want from me?” We listen with resentment and fear. We don’t really want to know. We listen passively. We practice “active listening.” We justify all of this as doing a good bit of what we perceive listening and hearing to be.
At the end of the person’s sharing “they” may be frustrated by the lack of listening we displayed. Maybe they are right. Maybe we blew it all off, tuned ourselves out. Maybe we did a “good enough” job of listening, but it wasn’t good enough. Maybe we got lucky. Maybe they leave feeling a bit better for having spent the time in conversation. They might feel any of the above listed items or they might feel something else and we might not be given the chance to find out just how we did during that conversation. There are times when we only get one shot at listening and turning it into truly hearing what the other person is telling us.
Each conversation is a one shot deal. It is my observation that for most of us, that we spend time listening, but not hearing. Hearing is an art and most of the time we fail to do it very well. Hearing is acknowledging what is left unsaid as well as the spoken portion. Hearing is seeing and feeling the richness of the soul. Hearing can be like unwrapping a gift box.
There are no courses for hearing. There are only times in our lives when we are the person who hears in fullness and the person that is fully heard. These are the times that we remember most. To fully hear and be heard: “to grock it.” (“Stranger in a Strange Land” Robert A. Heinlein) This knowing is what hearing and being heard is all about: to have a fullness of understanding and to view the “gestalt” or the picture in its entirety.
Recalling the conversation that sparked this blog title isn’t essential. The last comment however was the true gift: the gift that told me that for a brief moment in time I mattered to this person. “You needed to be heard.” Those words became significant. That one sentence caused my soul to change. I had been given the gift of being heard and I knew it.
Hearing it physically.
Music is a major part of my life. I listen, I sing, and yet I don’t hear all of its richness due to a hearing loss. I can hear harmonies, but not the richness that is present. I miss what the composer intended me to hear. If I use headphones I can hear more, but not all of the richness that is present. Headphones can be a pain. I have an, I need to use them/wish I didn’t need to use them, relationship with my “Plantronics.” To hear the rich and fuller sounds of the music I must wear them. I must use them when I Skype. I must be tuned into the other person.
Recently I decided that I needed to revisit the hearing instrument market. I had worn one such gadget during the mid 80’s to the late 90’s. The gadget was big and not very effective. When I moved to Germany I stopped wearing it. I would live without hearing because it felt better to not have that gargantuan thing in my right ear. I would also be rid of the background noises that were not wanted. Hearing was not pleasant.
Life changed and I needed to see if I could introduce a better quality of hearing pleasure into my daily experience. I found a center that does thorough screening for hearing loss and took that information to the techie who would do the actual work of finding the proper gadget for my sorry state of being. I didn’t feel very hopeful. My past experience was foremost in my mind.
The next week something wonderful happened: I heard a conversation and didn’t have to ask the person to repeat what was said. This was novel!!!! There were no raised voices. The experience was beautiful. Listening was effortless. I could once again hear the world around me.
I began to explore and found that I could have background music on and still hear!!!! I could listen as our three cats munched down their meals. Cats are noisy when they munch. I could listen to the sound of the water which had always seemed so quiet. Once the initial adjustment to hearing old sounds in new ways passed, I was happy. I was excited about having something else switched on. That switch was triggered a week later.
That next Monday my music listening program went live. I heard music in a new way. I was ecstatic. I could hear notes that had gone missing!!! The guy told me about some technology that would enhance my hearing experience to even greater heights. I had him order the “Mini Tek” NOW I WAS EXCITED. Oh, to hear the world in ways it was meant to be heard!
This gadget, Mini Tek, enables the user to have the sound transmitted directly to the hearing instrument. I would have a clear stream of beautiful noise!!!! I would be tuned in precisely!!!! I would hear my phone conversations while out and about and not have to ask the speaker to repeat themselves. Life was getting to be a bit of heaven on earth…UNTIL I found out that the insurance, which was paying for thousands of Euros of hearing pleasure, would not cover this 300 Euros of enhancement technology and I was faced with having to return the box that I had only hours before opened so excitedly.
Returning that box to the Beter Horen (We’re now in Holland) was one of the most depressing days of my life. I asked my husband, Jon, to do it because I was too depressed, too sick in my heart of hearts, to take it back. So, for now the gift of really hearing music and out of the house phone conversations is not happening. For now it is hard but not AS hard to hear. But, this is just about physical hearing and not about the needful hearing.
The gift box.
Fortunately for the true hearing of the soul I don’t need a hearing instrument. I don’t need a “Mini Tek”; I need an open heart that is tuned to the correct frequency of another’s heart. The transmission will be clear. I will be shown what I am meant to see and hear. That is what the gift of being heard is all about.
The gift of being heard is about feeling the soul. We must not only hear the words of the heart, but we must see the landscape of the soul. Only with both true hearing and clear vision can we understand and grant the gift. Only then can we hope to understand the rich soul-scape that awaits us. Only then will we rejoice and be thankful that we unwrapped and shared the gift of being heard.

The Kitty Story

For the past 21 years there have been cats in my life. The first cat was Phred. Phred came with my current husband, so I got to know both of them before we married. Phred was wise, good, and a mighty hunter. Phred was an amazing boy who could sit in porcelain kitty pose on the window box and just be the most precious welcoming cat in the universe. This doesn’t describe him perfectly, but it is a start. For me, Phred was my son. Yes, a child. The one outstanding thing I must mention is his addiction to fishy flavored flakes. IF we let him have some of those things he would go on a hunger fast and demand MORE. Never feed a cat something they can become addicted to!

Next came the princess and her name was ‘Roo, as in Kangaroo, due to her early kitty behavior. ‘Roo, like Phred, lived on two continents, but had the distinction of living in three countries. The Princess was an international kitty. ‘Roo had the most amazing quality of not only being beautiful on the outside but glowing from within. Quite frankly, I’ve never met another cat that I could say that about. ‘Roo had so many good qualities and like Phred, had a nice furry life.

When Phred departed in April of 1999, we decided to wait to see what happened before we became kitty parents yet again.

Barney came to us as a farm cat. He just wandered into our tiny house on the mountain and made friends with ‘Roo and by the end of the fall of 1999 we asked our landlord if we could take him in permanently. I’m glad we did. 

Barney moved with us from Southern Germany to Eastern Netherlands. We lived in an upstairs flat. There was a landing that had a narrow banister. Barney could hold his ground in that space…even when the fierce wind was present. He scared us when he did it. We could imagine him blowing away. Barney was stronger than any kitty we’ve known. Hubby and I would have to restrain him if medication was needed and we lost more than one battle with him. Barney was also very territorial: squirting up a storm in my new blue kitchen. He almost lost his life several times…cuteness saved him.

Barney loved yogurt and had a “yogurt voice” I think he had a sixth sense for when the stuff was to be served. His little furry life was cut short due to heat stroke during the heat wave of 2003. We were devastated. It was then that I said “I don’t think I can do this again. My heart is being pulled and my feelings for our kitty children are so strong.” I was learning something powerful about what our cats could be in our lives.

‘Roo and Barney had been true friends. They would adventure together; causing us to wake in the middle of the night as they ran from one end of the house to the other. Barney became the defender of the territory and ‘Roo, while older, let him do so. She kept dominance in a laughable manner and when she disciplined The Boy for crossing her, it was more comical relief than anything else. Barney got the message and fell into line as a good Submissive should. I remember the first night ‘Roo had without Barney. A cat entered our yard as if to take up the place, all holy hell broke out. We looked out to see our princess running the little twerp off of HER land. She still had it out there. ‘Roo held the dominant place her entire life but you would have never guessed it at first glance. Her sweet and gentle personality was misleading.

Cats are just like children. When you get to know them you discover a treasure chest of delightful happiness. Taking time to share in their little lives is the real gift. And now back to the narrative..

Hubby and I let ‘Roo do her thing for several months. I wasn’t ready for a new cat. Barney’s death was so unexpected and my heart was being pulled into new forms of growth.

At the end of 2003 I began to talk about getting a Russian Blue. I had always wanted a Blue. We started to research them in more detail. I also knew a couple with a Blue and knew her to be skittish. This would not do in a cat. It was then that we stumbled on to the Britt. This was it!!!! During the holiday season we connected with breeders. The wait was shorter than I had planned for and I wasn’t certain if I was ready to “mommie another kitty”, yet. 

We met Penelope and her sister, Tweety, on a cold January day in 2004 and we both fell in love instantly. What was not to love? Penelope was perfect: designed just for me.

‘Roo had had periods in her little furry life where she had been alone, but had matured and gained a sense of self. She was confident and ready to share her life. This was a healthy choice for ‘Roo.

When we carried Penelope home with us for her first night away from her sister, we were concerned about how she and ‘Roo would accept each other. We isolated Penelope and she cried. By midnight ‘Roo was upset and wanting to help, so we decided that we’d try it another way. We let ‘Roo into Penelopes’ space. They bonded instantly. ‘Roo mothered the child and Penelope grew into a sweet, beautiful, kitty daughter. All was well! My days were filled with loving our two kitty-daughters and life was happy with them. Both were adorable and wonderful to have.

Just as bringing a child into the world should take two agreed upon votes, so should bringing a kitty-child into the home. We had talked about a third kitty and finally being in agreement, it was time for action.

Hubby was smitten by Tweety, Penelopes’ sister, I called the breeder to let her know that when Tweety got pregnant, if there was a blue and white male, we wanted him. “Funny you should call…” was the reply “because she is giving birth tonight.” And in the morning the call came: JRA Bob had arrived. And it was a good thing I had called because several others were also interested in Bob. We felt blessed that he would come to our home.

That year for Christmas I gifted JRA Bob to my husband.

Now, we do know that Bob had already eaten

through some hot computer cable. He tore up some curtains. He was a general trouble-maker as a wee kitty. He was the ring leader who looked as innocent as could be, but there was always something brewing inside. And, this was while he was still with his mother!!!!! To this day, we are certain there was some brain damage: He never quite managed to grow up.

When we carried Bob home, we decided to let the boy out and allow the introductions to come naturally. There would be no isolating Bob. This time all holy hell broke out!!!! We thought Penelope would kill him. This was not good at all. Long story short, we put Penelope on Prozac. ‘Roo, while irritated at times, was for the most part, fine with the newbie.

Bob was the craziest, most curious and all around cat-like kitty to be had. There was never a dull moment with Bob. My kitty mommie hands were full!

When they were passing out kitty personalities we figure Bob kept returning for yet another and another and the conversation had to have sounded something like this:

Bob: I want more personality.

Giver: We already gave you a personality and that is all you get. Now go away!!!

Bob: But this isn’t enough. I can’t be as happy, bouncy, lively, and beaming as I’m meant to be. I need more personality and I just know I’ll burst out if I don’t have enough. I need so much MORE!!!! Please?

Giver: Ok JRA Bob.

Bob was right. Bob was loaded with love and affection beyond belief, and Bob was Gorgeous. “Beautiful”, in my mind, just doesn’t do him justice. Bob was the most beautiful of all of our cats and therefore he must have a different adjective. (I know males aren’t supposed to be gorgeous) But, he was and will always be our most gorgeous of kitties.

We were forced to say our goodbyes to Bob in the last week of April of 2013. It was a sunny day and a day that was meant for Bob to be outside in the world. And we took him out, as we had done as part of our saying goodbye ritual for Phred. Keeping him any longer would have been cruel. We miss him so much. There is a huge emptiness here that will never be replaced by another kitty. Bob was unique in the Cosmos. I like to imagine a grand meadow where he can play and be with our other kitties. It’s a nice thought.

As I write this, Penelope has gone through many phases of progression after Bob. First, Penelope was alone and bored. She too missed the pest. (Her thoughts, not ours) She faced being alone for the first time in her little furry life.

We hoped that she would discover a new self and become a new Cat. Penelope is a Cats’ cat. She is independent and does it all on her terms. She too is beautiful and sweet, and learned to become secure in her new environment.

She has shown us that she really needed to be an only kitty for a while. We have enjoyed her and hope to have many more years with her.

Our kitty tapestry has been filled with the rich warmth of individual cats who we will always cherish and from whom we have learned so many lessons about life. Twenty-one years ago I did not understand the power that an animal could have to shape a human life and color it in beautiful ways. Each loss is real.

So goes the cycle of life and death. It enters snatching souls of all types: human and animal. Those we love pass on and we are faced with the loneliness of not having them on a daily basis. Time and soul-searching can heal many things, but you can never go back.

I move forward and can only resolve to make the best kitty life possible for Penelope. 

In thinking about all of this, I must admit I believe that there is a time and a season for all to end as we know it. I believe that each of us creates a future based on possibility.

Because we knew that Bob was destined to live an un-naturally short life I created a mosaic of him that hangs where we can see him and be reminded of just how beamie he was.

I began this piece in 2013. I thought it had a different focus. I kept it in my draft section not knowing what to do with it. I can now publish it because I know the ending. It has to do with mental health issues.

More and more we as human beings are discovering the power of unconditional love with our pots. We are finding that they are sensitive to many powerful emotions we, as humans, display. I’ve seen this with Penelope. If I’m really feeling sick she will come and be my protector. 

I’ve seen this phenomenon with someone else in my life: Because of her dog, she is more engaged in daily life. While her depression is still present, she has a sweet loving dog to help her calm herself.

Remember George? He has been affected by animals as well. I believe that it really does help his depression.

So, telling you about my kitties and who they are, is a plug to remind you that cats and dogs can reach into souls that might not be reached with words.

Therapy for those who struggle with whatever-it-is-they-struggle-with can be made easier with an animal by your side.

Tonight Penelope will grace us with her presence and I hope that she will desire to snuggle up with me. I love her and the joy she brings to all who know her.

The Meaning of Enough

How many of us think about what we could do with more money? How many of us understand it’s true value? Whether we squander, or spend lavishly, everyone gives thought to having more stuff that makes it possible to live.

The fact is that having a sufficient amount of funds for meeting life’s needs can provide each of us with the feeling of being safe and secure. Having a surplus of funds can provide us with more options. The more wise options each of us has, the more choices we can makeup free us up to pursue better solutions for the challenges we face in life.

I’ve come to re-think how I feel about the paper we call money. I now think in terms of options, rather than wealth. What options do I need to provide a good life? What are the consequences of having any of these particular options? What is the meaning of having enough? It wasn’t always this way. My thoughts and feelings about money has been an on-going journey.

I’ve learned a lot from living and working. The process of returning to work as a self-employed therapist has caused me to ask myself about money, what do I need to provide for my family, and what would I like to do with the money I earn? So, what are my needs, the needs of my family, and the needs of my business?

One of the most important values I have is that of being able to assist others less fortunate than myself. This can only happen when the needs of my family are sufficiently met. It means having enough for not only our family’s needs, but having enough to fulfill a dream, or two. Having enough is about being realistic and feeling good about the things you have. So for me, it means being able to give back.

So in practical terms what is enough? Being able to buy what I want at the grocery store. Providing new clothing for my family when they need new things to wear is also important to me. Saving for retirement and taking a vacation to relax and return to work refreshed. After that, it means being able to save and give assistance by offering to buy groceries or replace someone’s worn shoes. It means doing good things for others. It means giving someone who is starting out in business my support. It means that I want to do nice things for my husband without him knowing about them.

Having enough also means that you don’t waste what you have. There is something about meeting your needs and not over-consuming, that is just good for the world we live in. When you live within your means and use only what you need, you have less trash, less stuff to store, and less cleaning to do. I’m not professing to be a minimalist because I’m not such a person. But, since our family has cut back on consumables, our trash isn’t as full and our house is less burdened with excess.

I will confess to wanting more kitchen space so that I can buy some cool kitchen gadgets. We like cool gadgets and we like to cook. So, it also follows that we like to eat good food. It is all about determining what “enough is” and living that way in a realistic and calm manner.

One of the things I’ve learned from living here in Europe is that Europeans like nice stuff. They have less stuff but what they own, is nice. Most people here don’t go into debt: They pay cash for what they own. Most will have enough to retire on and are satisfied. Being here in The Netherlands has taught me to rethink my thinking. It has been a lesson worth experiencing and learning.

As I think about who I am now, versus who I was when I came to Europe to live, I can see how being here has affected me in a positive manner. It has changed me for the better and it has taught me valuable lessons that I could not have learned by remaining in the U.S.

Insight is a great gift that each of us can provide to ourselves.  Insight comes when you look in the mirror and notice that the face staring back at you has taught you a valuable lesson, and one that you would not trade because you are better off for knowing. Insight can heal the pain that comes from making lousy decisions. Insight is like a plate of your favorite comfort food. When you have it you want to enjoy it and you want more of it.

As I move on with life, having enough for our family’s needs, is good enough. Evaluating what enough is was a challenge that has brought me inner peace. Understanding what enough is, frees me to do what I need to do in my life. Having enough means that you can live your life and not chase a false dream.

Sneakiness is Happiness

Today has been very hot. I like the heat because it means that the sun is out and the sky is blue. The only bad thing about the heat is that sticky, humid feeling. Today I had to be out in the heat and it was wonderful!!!!

Why? Well, it was because of all the nice things that happened while I was out and about and doing the many things that I had to get done. I was out alone with Myrtle Mae. Myrtle Mae is a good side-kick. “She” keeps me safe from others. I’ve also noticed that people are really nice to me when I’m buzzing around with my stick. (Myrtle Mae is featured in Stick Magic.)

There are so many things that are different about being a person with low vision. Some things are just more complicated and time-consuming than they are for a fully-sighted soul. People being nice to me made me feel OK about walking around in the heat. So to balance my happiness, I find myself listening to one of the most pessimistic guys of rock: Don Henley. I like Don.

There were things to do like the veggie run and the bank. I like getting this stuff done…but there was also laundry to do before I could do the veggie run.

I tell you all of this because the man did something wonderful for me. He can be sneaky in phases because my sight just isn’t good enough to see what is going on in my tiny room that I use as an office. I didn’t see the first phase at all.

My office is filled with very “Gail” type things, two of which are parasols that are mounted into the corners of the ceiling. Once they were up I thought “wouldn’t it be cool to backlight them.” I haven’t thought about it for some time. He has.

While I was out and about he got to work and gave me a very beautiful surprise to come home to. Yup, he backlit my parasols!!! So, even though it is hot out there and in here I’ve got the tiny lights on…I couldn’t resist as it is so pretty to have the soft light around me.

Being nice pays off not because it has to: it just does. There is something about generosity that is contagious. So, when I’m out and about, I smile and others say hello to me. Why?

I think that is because we, as humans, crave positivity in ways that will never be fully understood. I, for one, have no desire to study this as it takes some of the magic out of the process. I will studiously avoid the research on the topic. Some things are better enjoyed and left alone.

I think I’ll go find someplace cool to enjoy the evening. I also must switch to something other than Don Henley. Before I do…remember to smile and see what you get in return.